On Feb. 17, 2009, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), a $787 billion program of federal spending and tax cuts designed to revive the economy. ARRA includes more than $7 billion for energy efficiency and infrastructure, $5 billion for home weatherization, and $3.1 billion for state energy programs. Also included are $6 billion for clean water, $8 billion for high speed rail and intercity passenger rail service, and $300 million for alternative buses and trucks. The Administration’s elaborate new website tracks the progress of stimulus spending, including interactive maps showing state-by-state totals and site links to stimulus websites for individual states.
It will take time for stimulus funds to reach state and local governments. Certain funds in ARRA are allocated by formula to states and localities. Other programs allocate funding through competitive solicitations that involve requests for proposals and panels to evaluate applications in the coming weeks. Some programs respond directly to demand from eligible individuals and some include one-time benefits. The public can track spending from ARRA at www.recovery.gov.
It isn’t clear how ARRA will be administered. Money intended for local governments (cities and counties) will pass through the appropriate states. This makes sense in light of the unprecedented number of dollars to be distributed in a short period of time, as the funds must be spent in two years. Numerous available resources on how to access the funds make it often overwhelming to navigate. The Department of Energy stimulus website also has information.
Meetings have recently been held at the White House on accountability. Users must account for how ARRA funds are spent and what difference it makes in the economy and the environment. Individual governors must show that funds are used to benefit the citizens of their state. States with a blueprint in place for how to spend and account for the money will benefit the most from ARRA.
The District of Columbia, through the DC Department of the Environment, had a green DC agenda in place a year ago and was well-prepared to respond to ARRA. The website for the district and programs sponsored by the DC Department of the Environment can be found under DC Agenda 1.0. The site accommodates e-mailed or phoned in comments or commitments for projects in the district. By the end of 2009, DC Agenda 2.0 will expand with links to what private enterprise in the district has done. The district has more LEED buildings than any other city in the country, and developers with websites will be able to hook links to their sites through DC’s Agenda 2.0 and highlight their progress toward a greener DC.
It is anticipated that most money in the district will go to greening DC government business and buildings such as schools, firehouses, and police stations, and to renewable energy programs. Plans also exist to clean up the Anacostia River and make the riverfront accessible, available and interesting for development.
In Virginia, ARRA is expected to add $890 million for transportation and infrastructure; $265 million for unemployment benefits extension; nearly $800 million for school district funding, including K-12 education, building modernization and construction; and $136 million for modernizing and repairing water systems. In Maryland, of the $3.9 billion total, $193 million is expected to be used in housing, $123 million for the environment, and $57 million for energy projects. For additional information or questions about ARRA, please contact us.